'Daring' scheme to sell empty council homes for £1 set for approval
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
'Daring' scheme to sell empty council homes for £1 set for roll-out
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is expected to push forward with 'daring' plans to sell empty homes to working families for £1, following expected cabinet approval later this month.
The plans were first revealed by 24dash earlier this month and will see the families receive loans of up to £30,000 to renovate the homes.
The council is set to put aside £3m for the scheme - which includes £1.5m of funding from the Government's empty homes fund - and will see a cluster of 35 council-owned empty homes sold in the first instance.
To qualify, the council says people will have to demonstrate that they are “economically active” candidates, and commit to living in the property for at least five years. As a safeguard against abuse, Stoke says robust measures will be put in place during the contract process to prevent selling the property early or renting it out.
The target customers, says the council, are working families who already live and work in Stoke-on-Trent but are on low incomes and would struggle to get a mortgage.
The overall programme will target two areas in Stoke-on-Trent; the Portland Street area in the City Centre and the Bond Street area in Tunstall. Portland Street was identified as a declining area in the city during the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) programme with a vacancy rate of 18%. This is the area where the houses will be for sale.
In addition to loans of up to £30,000 there will also be additional funding made available to private landlords of empty homes in these areas to bring their properties back to a decent living standard.
The aim is to bring a total of 124 properties back into use and improve the overall appearance of the city, while also reducing crime and increasing the housing supply.
Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for housing, neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “This is a daring and innovative scheme which we are developing to bring empty properties back into use and improve the living standards of homes within Stoke-on-Trent; a key goal of the council’s Mandate for Change. We are keen to make Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live, work and visit.
“The idea would mean the council sells empty properties acquired with Housing Market Renewal Grant and provide new home owners with a loan of up to £30,000 to implement a series of improvement works that the council deems necessary to bring the property back to a decent home standard. Owners of long term empty homes may also be offered a loan with the same conditions.
“This money would then be paid back to the council as part of a loan repayment scheme and reinvested to improve other empty properties in the city.”
If agreed by cabinet on Thursday August 30, the city council will consult with residents of these areas and with their views shape how the project will be taken forward.
In total 4,918 properties are empty within Stoke-on-Trent of which 2,107 are classed as long term empty.